Appreciation

Scripture:  Luke 7:36-50 

Title: Appreciation

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • Appreciation is about acknowledging value
  • Appreciation vs. depreciation – Luke 7:36-50
  • The importance of receiving and enjoying
  • Conclusion

Introduction:

Today we continue our series on well-being and care of the soul, using the acronym: HEALING.

–         Each letter represents a word which, when properly applied, is life giving to the human soul…

–         Hope Energy Appreciation Lament Inter-dependence Nurture & Giving

–         A couple of Sundays ago we heard about the soul’s energy

–         Today our message focuses on appreciation

Appreciation is about acknowledging value:

Appreciation is about acknowledging value

–         We might for example appreciate the value of a sunset by taking time to sit and enjoy looking at it

–         Or if someone gives a good performance on stage or on the sports field we might acknowledge the value of that performance by standing to clap

–         Or if we lived in another part of the world, we might appreciate good service at a restaurant by tipping the waiter

–         Or if someone gives us a gift we might say ‘thank you’ as a way of acknowledging the value of the gift but also to show that we value the giver

Appreciation is about acknowledging value – it’s about saying, this is meaningful, this matters to me

–         Appreciation helps to strengthen connections with other people – it makes us feel better and it makes them feel better

 

We could say appreciation is a life giving exchange – sort of like breathing

–         With breathing we take in oxygen, then we give back carbon dioxide

–         With appreciation we receive the gift (whatever it happens to be) and then we give back thanksgiving & praise

–         And in that little exchange something changes in us so we feel more connected and less alone

Expressing gratitude demonstrates value for the relationship

–         But before we can be truly thankful we have to enjoy the gift

 

I have here a dry sponge and a bucket of water

–         Imagine that this sponge represents the human heart and the water represents something good – something of value to appreciate

–         If I squeeze this dry sponge nothing comes out because nothing has gone in – but if I immerse the sponge in the bucket it comes out dripping with water. It’s like that with expressing gratitude

–         In the same way that this sponge can’t express water unless it has been immersed in water, so too our hearts can’t express love & gratitude unless we have taken the gift in and allowed it to touch us and affect us

 

There are two parts to appreciation: enjoying the gift and expressing gratitude

–         Gratitude is the fruit of appreciation, enjoyment is the root

–         To truly value something we need to take it in and enjoy it

 

Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday this past week we were given three beautiful sunny days

–         I found myself thanking God for the gifts of sunshine and blue sky

–         I valued the sunshine because we’d had a lot of bad weather lately

–         Having said that I was also conscious that I wasn’t able to fully appreciate (or enjoy) the sunny day because I had work to do

–         So my appreciation or enjoyment of God’s gift wasn’t as complete as it might have been

–         To fully appreciate something (to properly value the gift and the giver) we need to fully receive and enjoy the gift

–         No point in only dipping the sponge half way

–         We need to take the gift in fully and allow ourselves to be touched or affected by the kindness of the giver

 

Here’s another example for you

–         In my hand is a Whittaker’s Sante bar

–         Now say I gave this chocolate bar to someone as a gift

–         They might say, ‘Thank you Will’ because that’s the polite thing to say but saying ‘thank you’ is only half of the process of appreciation

–         The other half involves removing the wrapper and taking some time to enjoy eating the chocolate

–         However, the process of appreciation isn’t totally complete until the person receiving the chocolate feels touched in their heart by the gift

–         True appreciation involves a shift or a change in the deeper parts of ourselves, like oxygen changing to carbon dioxide in our lungs or a dry sponge soaking up water

–         Gratitude is the fruit of appreciation, enjoyment is the root

 

Of course it follows that our appreciation – both our enjoyment and our gratitude – is usually proportional to our felt need

–         For example, we appreciate (or value) a glass of cold water more on a hot day when we are thirsty

–         Just as we appreciate (or value) a doctor more when we are feeling sick

–         Or we appreciate our own bed more after we’ve been travelling away

–         I could go on but you get the point, the greater our need the greater our appreciation when that need is met

 

Appreciation vs. depreciation – in Luke 7:36-50

Please turn with me to Luke 7, page 86, toward the back of your pew Bibles

–         To help us explore this concept of appreciation we are going to read a gospel story of two very different responses to Jesus

–         The woman in this story appreciates Jesus – she values him

–         While the man depreciates Jesus.

–         From Luke chapter 7, verse 36, we read…

36 A Pharisee invited Jesus to have dinner with him, and Jesus went to his house and sat down to eat. 37 In that town was a woman who lived a sinful life. She heard that Jesus was eating in the Pharisee’s house, so she brought an alabaster jar full of perfume 38 and stood behind Jesus, by his feet, crying and wetting his feet with her tears. Then she dried his feet with her hair, kissed them, and poured the perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, “If this man really were a prophet, he would know who this woman is who is touching him; he would know what kind of sinful life she lives!”

40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Yes, Teacher,” he said, “tell me.”

41 “There were two men who owed money to a moneylender,” Jesus began. “One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. 42 Neither of them could pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Which one, then, will love him more?”

43 “I suppose,” answered Simon, “that it would be the one who was forgiven more.”

“You are right,” said Jesus. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your home, and you gave me no water for my feet, but she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You did not welcome me with a kiss, but she has not stopped kissing my feet since I came. 46 You provided no olive oil for my head, but she has covered my feet with perfume. 47 I tell you, then, the great love she has shown proves that her many sins have been forgiven. But whoever has been forgiven little shows only a little love.”

48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The others sitting at the table began to say to themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”

50 But Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this story for us

 

Each Sunday, when we arrive at church, we are greeted by four people at the door whose job it is to welcome us as we cross the threshold

–         These welcomers normally shake your hand, smile at you, say ‘hello’ and give you a newsletter as you pass by

–         [Put on rubber gloves]

–         Imagine for a moment that the people on the door were wearing rubber gloves like these and a face mask like this, when you arrived

–         And what if, instead of shaking your hand, they gave your hands a squirt with sanitiser – how would that make you feel?

–         Well it sends a mixed message – it says, ‘Come in, but don’t get too close.’ ‘Fill the pews but don’t make a mess’

–         It’s also a bit insulting, in that it says, ‘I’m clean and you’re dirty’

–         Most people would feel pretty depreciated to be greeted like this

 

In our reading from Luke 7 a Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner and Jesus accepts the invitation

–         However, when Jesus arrives he is not welcomed with any of the normal courtesies we might expect in ancient middle eastern culture

–         Simon does not greet Jesus with a kiss on the check, which is the equivalent of shaking his hand and saying ‘nice to see you’

–         He does not give Jesus any water to wash his feet, which is like hanging up a person’s coat for them, when they arrive, and offering them a drink

–         Nor does Simon provide any olive oil for Jesus’ head, which in Middle Eastern culture would be as rude as wearing rubber gloves & a face mask

In short Simon, the host, ignores Jesus his guest

–         Now, if you were born and raised in NZ then, like me, you probably don’t appreciate just how socially embarrassing this is to Jesus

–         Simon’s lack of hospitality is a calculated insult

–         This is not an accident, nor is Simon ignorant

–         He means to humiliate Jesus in public – to make him look small and unimportant

–         It’s sort of like being invited to a pool party and having the host ‘down-trou’ you in front of all the other guests – it shows a lack of respect for you as a person and lack of value for the relationship

–         Apparently Simon does not appreciate who Jesus is

–         In fact Simon is apathetic toward Jesus – he simply does not care and consequently he devalues Jesus

 

Although Jesus had the right to say, ‘I see I’m not welcome here’ and then leave in a huff, he doesn’t

–         Instead Jesus practices what he preaches by turning the other cheek and staying to face the man who has insulted him

 

Simon’s apathy is in direct contrast to the woman who had lived a sinful life

–         We are not told the name of this woman but Luke’s account makes it clear that she appreciates Jesus – she values him

–         In some way (we don’t know exactly how) Jesus had made a profound impression on this woman

–         Most likely she heard him give a message about how God loves & forgives sinners – which for her would be like a beautiful fine day after years of bad weather

–         Whatever form Jesus’ grace came in, the woman values and enjoys it

–         She didn’t hold Jesus at arm’s length with rubber gloves or quarantine  his message in some corner of her brain

–         She allowed her heart to be touched and deeply affected by Jesus

 

When she hears that Jesus is at Simon’s house she goes to express her gratitude taking a jar of perfume

–         Now this would have required a fair bit of courage because Simon was at the top of the social scale, a Pharisee with a really good reputation

–         And she was somewhere near the bottom, a woman with a really bad reputation

–         She was walking into the lion’s den – she was going where she didn’t belong

–         This woman’s love & gratitude for Jesus is greater than her fear

But when she sees the appalling way that Simon treats Jesus she tries to alleviate Jesus’ humiliation and compensate for Simon’s rudeness by providing what the host did not

 

In ancient Middle Eastern culture people didn’t eat sitting down at tables like we do

–         They reclined on the ground in a sort of horse shoe shape with their heads facing in and their feet sticking out

–         So the woman would have had easy access to Jesus’ feet and she would have been seen by everyone

–         The woman has some perfume with her but she doesn’t have water or a towel – and why would she? Anyone would assume that Simon had taken care of that

–         So she improvises – she uses her tears to wet Jesus’ feet and her hair to dry them

Kenneth Bailey observes just how shocking this woman’s behaviour was [1]

–         In that cultural setting women were not supposed to let their hair down in public and they weren’t supposed to touch a man

–         Yet this woman does both those things

–         It would have been more practical to use the folds of her dress to dry Jesus’ feet but she uses her hair – that’s unusual even in our culture

She is so focused on Jesus, so grateful for what Jesus has done, that she enters into Jesus’ pain of rejection in a way that is costly to her

–         The greater the cost, the greater the value, the greater the appreciation

–         Washing feet was a job reserved for the lowest of the low

–         You don’t maintain honour and avoid shame by washing feet

–         Jesus had been humiliated by Simon and the woman stood in solidarity with Jesus by not only washing his feet but kissing them as well

–         I expect she wasn’t concerned with other people’s opinions of her

–         Like they say in AA, ‘What other people think of me is none of my business’

 

Jesus would have been expected to tell the woman to stop and go to the temple to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving there

–         But Jesus doesn’t do this – he appreciates (he values) what she is doing

–         We, the reader, can see what this woman senses – that God’s presence resides in Jesus in a special way. [2]

–         Jesus is greater than the temple – so the woman has brought her fragrant offering of thanksgiving to the right person & place

 

Simon, who doesn’t yet appreciate just who Jesus is, concludes that Jesus must be a fraud, otherwise he would know who this woman was and get out his rubber gloves and foot sanitiser

Jesus spoke up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’

–         In other words, I need to be frank & you might not like it

‘There were two men who owed money to a moneylender. One owed him 500 silver coins and the other one fifty. Neither of them could pay him back. So he cancelled the debts of both. Which one then will love him more?’

–         And Simon answers, ‘I suppose the one who was forgiven more.’

Then Jesus says, ‘You are right’ and proceeds to point out that Simon did not extend any of the normal courtesies to him while a woman with a bad reputation went beyond the norm in a generous outpouring of love

Jesus does not mean to insult Simon but he does mean to make Simon face the truth about himself – because it’s the truth that sets us free

–         The money lender in the parable represents God

–         The one who owed 500 silver coins represents the woman

–         And the one who owed only 50 coins is Simon

Jesus’ message is clear – Simon is not that different from the woman

–         Like the woman, Simon the Pharisee is also a sinner

–         He may not have sinned as much as the woman but he is still a sinner unable to repay his debt to God and in need of God’s forgiveness

–         The fact that the woman loves Jesus so obviously and so much proves that she truly appreciates (truly values) how much she has been forgiven

–         By the same token, Simon’s apathy toward Jesus (his failure to value Jesus) proves that he is not even aware of his need for forgiveness

Jesus vindicates the woman and covers her with honour saying…

–         The great love she has shown proves that her many sins have been forgiven. But whoever has been forgiven little shows only a little love

You see Jesus loves Simon too and wants to help him to appreciate the reality of his situation so that Simon will respond with gratitude to the gift of forgiveness

 

Having spoken to Simon, Jesus then talks to the woman directly saying…

–         Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.

Again we have to appreciate the culture here

–         Men & women were not supposed to talk to each other in public

–         And while the woman doesn’t say anything, Jesus does speak to her

–         But that’s not the most shocking thing

–         Forgiveness is something that God does

–         Jesus is giving this woman a divine pardon and in so doing he is claiming divine authority and painting a target on his own back

 

Appreciation is about acknowledging value

–         The woman valued the gift of Jesus’ forgiveness by expressing her gratitude in a costly way

–         And in that little exchange something changes in her so that she feels more connected and less alone

–         Simon, on the other hand, couldn’t appreciate Jesus’ forgiveness because he didn’t even realise his need for it

–         Consequently he was detached and unaffected

 

We are not told how this encounter with Jesus affected Simon

–         I would like to think that he was cut to the core and changed his mind about Jesus, but I expect that is wishful thinking on my part

–         Certainly Simon’s mates (the Pharisees) depreciated Jesus – they were instrumental in arranging Jesus’ crucifixion

 

The importance of receiving & enjoying:

In his book Flourish, Martin Seligman talks about the value of keeping a thankfulness diary

–         That is, at the end of each day, writing down three things that went well and why they went well

–         It might be that it that you saw a rare bird that day

–         Or it could be that you passed an exam

–         Or maybe you were in the right place at the right time to help someone

–         This simple technique helps to retrain one’s mind to see the good news

–         What we think about grows in our mind – why not sow positive seeds

–         And it is good advice, but to save this from becoming an empty exercise, where we just go through the motions, we need to be intentional about enjoying both the big and little gifts that come our way

–         After all, gratitude is the fruit of appreciation, enjoyment is the root

So one of the key questions relating to appreciation is: how do I enjoy things?

–         How do I fully take things in? How do I receive and value them?

–         Well, we receive by faith

–         Receiving requires us to be open and to trust

Some people have no problem with receiving & enjoying things but others (often religious types) have a hard time with it

–         Maybe we’ve been hurt in the past and our trust has been damaged so we put a bit of distance between ourselves and others – we struggle to receive because receiving makes us feel vulnerable

–         Or maybe we don’t want to be anyone’s debtor, we want to be the one in control, so we do lots of things to help the people around us without ever accepting what they might want to do for us in return – but that just makes us feel more alone

–         Or maybe we are just too proud to accept help – we want to maintain the illusion that we are the hero, that we don’t have needs, that we are better than other people

–         Or perhaps we don’t value ourselves that much – we don’t think we are worthy to receive and enjoy good things

–         Maybe we feel guilty…

o   How can I enjoy a nice meal out when others are starving?

o   How can I enjoy this promotion at work when others are being made redundant?

o   How can I enjoy this holiday when others are going without?

–         There are lots of things that get in the way of our enjoyment – whatever the reason, a failure to receive and enjoy the good things God offers will leave the sponge of our heart dry and unable to express love & gratitude

 

Just a matter of hours before his crucifixion Jesus took the place of a servant and washed his disciples’ feet

–         I imagine it was a humbling experience for everyone in the room

–         Peter, however, refused to let Jesus wash his feet

–         So Jesus said to Peter, ‘If you don’t let me wash your feet you are no longer my disciple.’ [3]

–         In other words, you have to receive this from me

–         If the sponge of your heart is not immersed in the water of my love then you will have nothing to offer

–         What good is a dry sponge – what good is a loveless heart?

 

Conclusion:

We don’t get to choose what form God’s grace comes to us in

–         It might come in the form of a beautiful day after weeks of foul weather

–         It might come in the form of someone cooking a meal for us

–         It might come in the form of being forgiven

–         It might come in the form of a word of Scripture meant just for us

–         It might come in the form of someone washing our feet or our car or our dishes or our floor

–         At some point or other God’s grace is bound to come in a form that makes us feel embarrassed, awkward and vulnerable

–         Good! We don’t get to choose what form God’s grace comes to us in

–         But we do get to choose whether we will appreciate it

May God’s grace humble us in a good way

–         May God’s grace wash away any illusions we have of being in control

–         May God’s grace get under our skin and into our heart

–         And may we enjoy it – may we savour it and appreciate it and value it for all its worth

 

Questions for discussion or reflection:

1.)    What stands out for you in reading this Scripture and/or in listening to the sermon?

2.)    Can you think of a time in your life when you really appreciated something?

–         What happened? What were the circumstances?

–         Why did you appreciate it so much?

3.)    How does Jesus respond to Simon’s public insult/humiliation of him?

–         Putting yourself in Jesus’ shoes, how might you have felt &/or responded?

4.)    How does the woman respond to Jesus’ grace for her?

–         What was costly and risky about her response?

5.)    How does Jesus respond to the woman’s outpouring of love?

–         Putting yourself in Jesus’ shoes, how might you have felt &/or responded?

6.)    How does appreciation grow connection and make us feel less alone?

7.)    What is the meaning of the parable in verses 41-42?

8.)    Do you struggle to receive?

–         If yes, why is that do you think?

–         How might you better enjoy God’s good gifts?

9.)    Make some time this week to really appreciate something.

(E.g. reading a good book, going out for coffee with a friend, having a soak in the bath or a walk in the bush or by the sea – whatever it is you enjoy doing.)

 

[1] Kenneth Bailey, ‘Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes’, page 248-249

[2] Ibid, page 257

[3] John 13:8

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